Why You Should Visit Slovenia

In 2019, I booked a trip with Trafalgar to visit Croatia. It was their “Best of Croatia and Slovenia” tour. I had wanted to go to Croatia for a while but I would always get overwhelmed when trying to plan so I kept pushing it off. This tour seemed like the perfect compromise. It also included Slovenia, a country I did not know anything about. I didn’t do much research about it before I left either, figuring I would learn about it along the way. Turns out, Slovenia is incredibly beautiful with wonderful people. It ended up being one of my favorite parts of the two week trip. I highly recommend visiting Slovenia when you have a chance. Here are the reasons I think why you should visit Slovenia.

But First, Some Slovenian Facts

Slovenia is located in Central Europe and is bordered by Italy, Austria, Hungary, Croatia and the Adriatic Sea. It covers approximately 7,800 square miles and has a population of two million people. It has a mostly mountainous terrain. Slovenia was the first republic to split from Yugoslavia in 1991. It is now a parliamentary republic. Slovenia is a member nation of the EU, United Nations and NATO. Its capital and largest city is Ljubjana.

On the “famous people” front, the current First Lady of the USA is from Slovenia.

The Reasons Why You Should Visit Slovenia

It is not completely overrun with tourists (yet!).

Yes, of course there are many tourists in Slovenia, many of them part of a tour of Croatia like me. But unlike some other places I have visited in Europe, it did not feel like Slovenia was being overwhelmed by tourists.

I was able to walk around Ljubljana without feeling crowded. I snagged a table at a highly recommended restaurant in Bled without a reservation. Getting decent photos of Lake Bled and Lake Bohinj without a ton of people in the background was a breeze.

The only time it felt like there were a lot of people around was when we visited the island in the middle of Lake Bled. But it’s a small island and it’s popular. So it is to be expected.

I Felt Very Safe as a Female Solo Traveler

While I visited Slovenia as part of an organized tour, I spent much of my time exploring the area on my own and I never felt unsafe.

On our second night in Bled, I skipped the organized dinner and instead walked to Penzion Berc, a local hotel with a restaurant that was highly rated on Yelp and in Rick Steves’ Croatia and Slovenia travel guide. I went alone. I was able to eat at a table outside, where I had a delicious meal of lamb chops with creme brulee (my favorite!) for dessert. The food was very good but the thing I remember most about this meal was that I had a glass of wine with dinner but declined another one because I didn’t want to end up with a $100 dinner bill that night. It turns out, the wine, which was also very good, was only four euros a glass! If I has known that, I would have had another one for sure! Ha!

My goal was to be back to the hotel before dark but it didn’t happen. It also turns out that Bled does not have any street lights in town, probably to cut down on environmental pollution, which I understand. It did make walking back to my hotel a bit of an adventure though. Luckily, I had my cell phone and was able to use the flashlight on it to guide me along. Once I made it back to the hotel, I decided to enjoy the beautiful evening and found a bench along the lake behind the hotel and sat out there for an hour or so before turning in for the night. It was so calming and pleasant. It was perfect for a solo female traveler.

Lamb Chops in Slovenia
Lamb Chops from Penzion Berc in Bled, Slovenia
Creme Brulee – Yum!

Ljubljana is a Great European Capitol

Ljubljana is Slovenia’s capital and largest city. It has a population of about 300,000 people. It is known for its university population and green spaces, including Tivoli Park. The Ljublianica River, lined with outdoor cafes, divides the city’s old town from its commercial hub.

We spent a few hours in Ljubljana and I believe it is worth a visit. It is small and therefore, easy to explore by foot. I don’t think you need to spend more than a day in Ljubljana. I spent my time walking along the river and the city center, popping into shops that looked interesting and admiring the architecture as I went. Eventually, I got an ice cream cone and found a spot in the shade to sit and people watch for a while.

One building I kept admiring was the Ljubljana Castle. The castle is perched on top of Castle Hill and it overlooks the city. Archaeologists believe that the area of the present castle has been continuously settled since 1200 BC.

The castle’s role has changed numerous times since its first mention around 1120. Aside from tourism, the castle now is used for weddings and cultural events.

Reasons to visit Slovenia
Ljubljana Castle
One of the buildings surrounding the city center in LjubLjana.
Ljubljana River
A selfie with the Ljubljana River in the background.

Lake Bled

Lake Bled is probably the most well known area in Slovenia and is probably the reason that many people choose to visit Slovenia. Bled was our home base for the two nights we spent in Slovenia. We slayed along Lake Bled in the Hotel Park.  When we stayed there, I would say it was adequate. It was definitely not fancy but the location along the lake was perfect. I did see as I was looking the hotel up to link in this post that it is being renovated so it may be wonderful after it is redone.

The lake surrounds Bled Island, which can be accessed by taking one of the wooden boats shown below. There are no motorized boats allowed on the lake so the boats are rowed by men to and from the island.

The island has several building on it, the main one being the pilgrimage church dedicated to the Assumption of Mary, which was built in its current form near the end of the 17th century. We spent an hour or so on the island, wandering around, admiring the views and reading up on the history of the church.

In our free time, we were able to walk around the lake. It is about three miles around. While some people on my tour did the walk, I did not. To be honest, jet lag and lack of sleep for several days was starting to catch up to me at that point so I took the time to rest instead. It was much needed.

Another thing that the Bled area is known for is their cream cake. It is made with eggs, cream, milk and sugar. After visiting the island, we went to a restaurant where we were able to try the cream cake. It was okay. I was expecting more flavor to be honest.

The boats used to get to Bled Island
The pilgrimage church dedicated to the Assumption of Mary on Bled Island
The view from my breakfast table in the Hotel Park in Bled, Slovenia.
The famous cream cake
A view of Bled from Bled Island
Reasons why you should visit Slovenia
The area was so pretty with such amazing views!
I loved the clouds and the mountains in the background here.

Amazing Views of the Julian Alps

The Julian Alps stretch from northeastern Italy to Slovenia. Mount Triglav is the highest peak in Slovenia and is included in Slovenia’s coat of arms. The views we had of the Julian Alps as we were visiting and driving through the Bled area were spectacular!

Reasons to visit Slovenia
The majestic Julian Alps in the background.

Lake Bohinj

Lake Bohinj was a hidden gem that our tour guide took us to on our second day the Bled area. We had to walk through some trees and down a fairly steep hill to get there but boy was it worth it!

Lake Bohinj is possibly the prettiest lake I have visited. As someone who is always in search of the perfect reflection shot, Lake Bohinj delivered! The views were spectacular. The setting was so peaceful. The water so clear. This lake HAS to be in the list of reasons to visit Slovenia.

Reasons to visit Slovenia
Lake Bohinj in Slovenia. Absolutely stunning!
Me at Lake Bohinj

My Final Thoughts on Why You Should Visit Slovenia

As you can see, there are many reasons why I think you should visit Slovenia soon. I love that it’s a little off the beaten path and that not a lot of people have been there. In fact, many people get it confused with Slovakia. I would say I have made that correction to others about 25 times. If you get the chance, go to Slovenia. Add Croatia and Bosnia to the itinerary and you will have a great trip filled with good food, wonderful people and an interesting history lesson.

You can check out other posts from my trip to Croatia and Slovenia here and here.

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Reasons why you should visit Slovenia

Packing for Europe in the Fall

Travel without Checking a Bag

Twas the night before I leave for a trip to Croatia and Slovenia and here I am; sitting on the couch, relaxing and writing a blog post after packing for Europe in the fall. Who am I?

This never happens. Usually at this point before a trip, I am scrambling to finish laundry and packing. It is common for me to be putting stuff into my suitcase as I am walking out the door en route to the airport.

So what is different this time? A few things. The main thing is I did my laundry last weekend and made myself wear what was left in my closet for work this week. This allowed me to pack last night without having to account for unfinished laundry. Also, in general, I am very relaxed about this trip. While I am going solo, I booked it through a tour so they do all of the planning. All I have to do is show up, which means no second guessing myself tonight about whether I booked hotels and day trips correctly.

Speaking of packing, I am turning over a new leaf there.  I am packing for Europe in the fall with only my backpack and a carry on suitcase. You read that right – no checked bag for me on this trip!  I am so proud of myself!

I am a big fan of Sarah Murdoch. Sarah works with Rick Steves and also plans and guides her own tours. She always stresses packing light in all of her blog and social media posts. I know how practical and correct she is so I am taking it to heart! While I’m not at her level of light packing yet (she travels with just a backpack), I have definitely downsized and am looking forward to how much easier I know it will make this trip.

So how did I do it? Here is a complete list of what I packed. (Note: Some of the Amazon links below are affiliate links which means that if you purchase anything through the use of my links, I receive a small commission).

In my suitcase…

  • 5 tops
  • 2 jeans
  • 3 dresses
  • 2 pajamas
  • Lots of socks and underwear
  • 2 bras
  • A rain/trench coat
  • 2 cardigans
  • A pair of athletic shorts and a T-shirt for lounging around
  • A swimsuit
  • My Cubs sweatshirt in case of cold hotel rooms
  • 4 pairs of shoes (my sneakers, a pair of ballet flats, a pair of nicer flat sandals and my flip flops for moving about hotels)
  • 3 pairs of fun earrings
  • Makeup
  • Zuca bag with my toiletries
  • A ziplock bag with my shower supplies
  • Outlet converters
  • A guidebook
  • Money belt (not sure if I will use it but I bring it just in case)

I *think* I included enough clothes so I will not have to do laundry while I’m traveling if I don’t want to. I wear clothes multiple times between washings at home so why not do the same when traveling? The list above includes key pieces I need to dress up for a nicer dinner or dress casually for every day activities.

There is a key to getting all of that in my suitcase and keeping it organized: packing cubes. These are the ones I have and they make a big difference for me. I love them and don’t like to travel without them anymore.

Away suitcase
My empty Away suitcase

My Away suitcase
All packed and so organized!

In my backpack…

  • My DSLR camera
  • Medicine (mostly allergy meds and some Advil)
  • A light fleece jacket for the plane
  • Noise canceling headphones
  • My Trtl pillow (the best travel pillow! I highly recommend it!)
  • A small crossbody purse with my phone, currency, passport, mints and chapstick
  • A book
  • Toothbrush/toothpaste, contact solution and case
  • My iPad
  • Compression socks for the plane
  • A folder containing our itinerary and Flat Stanley (courtesy of my 9 year old niece)

And that is it! I am happy with this list. It is minimal but complete. I cannot wait to take off tomorrow and explore Croatia and Slovenia over the next week and a half!

Want to read more? Check out my posts detailing my solo trip to Greece here and here!

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Family Trip to Germany

While I often travel alone and enjoy it, traveling with a group can be great too, In October 2014, my Aunt Julie organized a family trip to Germany. Our ancestors came to the U.S. from Germany and she is very passionate about genealogy. This trip was a great opportunity to spend time with family, see where my ancestors are from and tour Germany. The trip included Julie and her husband Al, their son, Tim, my Aunt Sandy and her husband, Tom, my cousin, Deb, and me.

Frankfurt

We flew from the U.S. on various flights and met in Frankfurt. After checking into our hotel and resting for a bit, we set out for a walking tour of the city. I found this walking tour on Trip Advisor and it was also listed in Rick Steves’ Germany guidebook.

I find walking tours to be a great way to explore and orient myself to cities I am visiting for the first time. While we paid for our walking tour in Frankfurt, many cities have free walking tours through their Visitors’ Center. Another good resource for walking tours in European cities is Rick Steves and his books and app. For some cities, he has audio tours that you can use to navigate a city (I used his audio walking tour of Athens and it was great!). He also has walking tours listed in his books that are helpful (I followed along with his walking tour of Zagreb, Croatia when I was there).

I was able to find a private guide after reading Rick Steves’ book and consulting Trip Advisor. Our guide, Jo from Frankfurt on Foot, gave us a wonderful tour of the city. She spoke great English, went at our pace and was very knowledgeable about the city. She also recommended a great restaurant for dinner.

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Family Trip to Germany
I loved this old town street in Frankfurt.

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The evergreen wreaths below are pretty but don’t buy them for a loved one. They are grave decorations. The bull is a statue outside of the board of trade.

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Frankfurt is known for their green sauce and apple wine. I liked the green sauce on schnitzel (below). I was not a big fan of the apple wine.

Family trip to Germany
schnitzel with green sauce

After spending a day in Frankfurt, our family trip to Germany continued as we set out to explore other areas of the country. We split up on day 2. Al and Julie went off to do some genealogy stuff while the rest of us spent the day in Bamberg.

Bamberg

Bamberg is a wonderful city. The city center is a listed UNESCO world heritage site. The most well known building is the Bamberg Altstadt, which is the building/bridge in the first three photos below.

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During our exploration of Bamberg, we passed by the bar below several times. Everyone who spilled out seemed to be very happy and having a great time so after walking around the city for a few hours, we decided to check it out. It was worth the stop, other than they were not serving food (we were very hungry by this point in the day). The beer was very refreshing and the atmosphere was fun (sort of cave-like inside).

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Family Trip to Germany
Not the best photo but I feel like it sums up our time in Bamberg well. So many laughs. 🙂
Family Trip to Germany
I love this building!   

The two photos below were taken in the area of Bamberg known as “Little Venice.” If you squint and use your imagination, you can almost see Venice, Italy.

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We finally found food – a brat from a street vendor! It was really good, even competing with the brats from the Edgewood Locker in my opinion (I think it was the bread that made it so good).

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Continue reading about our family trip to Germany here.

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Traveling Solo in Athens, Greece

Anyone who knows me well knows I am almost always up for a trip and an adventure! Just name the place and I will be there. So what did I do when my good friend, Amy, invited me to join her and a couple of her friends on a trip to Greece? I requested the vacation time and booked pronto, of course! Amy and her friends were going to spend the entire week they were in Greece on the island of Skiathos. Since it is such a long trip to get there, I decided to split my time between Skiathos and other parts of Greece. I spent two days in traveling solo in Athens, met them in Skiathos and then finished the trip with solo visits to Mykonos and Santorini.

Greece is an amazingly beautiful country. The Greeks I encountered were very friendly and the food is delicious. I ate a lot of seafood and Greek salads, which were perfect for me because I don’t like lettuce and Greek salads have no lettuce, just veggies, feta cheese and seasonings. It was the perfect light meal!

Day 1 – Out and About in Athens

I figured since I was flying all the way over to Greece, I should spend a couple of days traveling solo in Athens to explore the city and visit the Parthenon. I toured the city using Rick Steves’ Walking Tour. If you do not know who Rick Steves is, he is the author of European travel guides and also has a TV show on PBS. His books are my go-to when I am booking trips to Europe.

I downloaded the app and then the audio walking tour (both for free!) onto my phone. When I set out on the tour, I used one of my ear buds to listen to him so I could also be aware of my surroundings at all time. It worked out perfectly! The best part of his tour is that I was able to listen and then stop the tour and take photos before continuing on.

My first stop along the walking tour was the Parliament House. This building was once the palace for the first King of Greece after the Ottoman occupation and now seats the members of Parliament.

The gentlemen in red caps are the guards, also known as Evzones. The Evzones is a special unit of the Hellenic Army who guard the Monument of the Unknown Soldier in front of the Hellenic Parliament and the Presidential Mansion. Through the historical movement of Greece, the Evzones have become symbols of bravery and courage for the Greek people.

They have a Changing of the Guards ceremony similar to the one in front of Buckingham Palace in London (just on a much smaller scale). I love the uniforms these guards wore, especially their shoes! The pom pom on the end is awesome! According to Rick Steves, it is a huge honor for Greek men to be guards and they take their positions very seriously.

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A guard outside of the Parliament House in Athens, Greece. I love their shoes. 🙂

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Changing of the guard ceremony at the Parliament House in Athens
Traveling Solo in Athens
Parliament House in Athens, Greece

After spending time at the Parliament House, I set off to explore other areas of the city. Athens reminded me a lot of Rome in that there are lots of ancient structures all around.

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Seen along the walking tour of Athens
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I loved all of the colorful buildings and flowers. I couldn’t get enough and have lots of photos of both
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And of course I loved all the blue that I think of when I picture Greece.

At the end of my walking tour was the statue below. This statue saved my sanity the next night after dinner.

I found a neat restaurant to eat at that evening and somehow took a wrong turn on the way back to my hotel. I ended up getting completely disoriented and could not figure out which way my hotel was. There was definitely a moment or two of panic where irrational thoughts set in – “I’m lost and am going to wander around this city forever, never to be found again.” My usual crutch when things like this happen – my phone – was not available which only added to my anxiety.

I pushed the thoughts aside for a bit and decided to keep walking. After a bit, I came to a courtyard area…and saw this statue, which I knew had seen earlier in the day on the walking tour. Once I saw him, I was able to orient myself and realized I was just a couple of blocks from my hotel. Whew! (And let’s face it, I could have stopped at one of the many restaurants around and someone would have helped me find my hotel…so I really didn’t need to worry).

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Day 2 – Acropolis and the Parthenon

My main goal for Day 2 was to visit the Parthenon. The Parthenon is located on a big hill overlooking Athens. I could see it from my hotel. It was a sight to be seen at night because it was all lit up. It is a hike up to the top of the hill so if you go, make sure to wear comfy shoes and bring water.

The Parthenon is the main ancient structure on the Acropolis, the hill pictured below. It is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, the symbol of Athens and the most famous of the surviving structures from the world of ancient Greece. The building was originally built in honor of the goddess Athena, the city’s patron. There was a lot of construction going on while I visited because they are working to restore and preserve the site.

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The Parthenon from my hotel 

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These are 4 of the 6 women -columns of the Erechteion temple, which is located near the Parthenon on the Athenian Acropolis hill. They are named Caryatids and are copies of the originals (which are at a museum).

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With that, my time traveling solo in Athens came to an end. I know a lot of people skip Athens and head straight to the islands when they visit Greece. I really enjoyed my time in Athens and recommend you spend a day or two there when you head to Greece. It is worth your time.

To read about my time with Amy and her friends on Skiathos and my time on Mykonos and Santorini, including how I got stuck on Mykonos, click here.

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